For a film that is a comedy, one would expect Holmes & Watson to offer escapism and at the very least some decent laughs. The fact that the three quarters full cinema was dead quiet except for one chuckle says a lot. Trying to force yourself to laugh is the name of the game here and trying to laugh at a movie that isn’t funny is a chore.
In Holmes & Watson a classic fictional character is torn to pieces and rebuilt as an idiotic buffoon thanks to a cringe-worthy turn from Will Ferrell, whose acting is worse than the treatment of the character. It is incredibly clear just how hard he, and the script for that matter, is trying to be funny. John C. Reilly isn’t as bad, but his talented range is wasted entirely.
The plot, if you could call it that, involves Holmes (Ferrell) and his trusted sidekick Watson (Reilly) investigating a mysterious murder at Buckingham Palace. Despite believing that their nemesis Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) is behind the crime, the duo quickly discover that this may not be the clear-cut case it appears to be.
Along with the lackluster jokes, the writers also felt the need to insert random snippets of political satire, each time failing spectacularly. We all know that Trump is a twit, but director Etan Cohen seemed to think it was a good idea to take shots at an easy target. These attempts at trying to be relevant to today’s society, including poking fun at America’s love of firearms, feel awkward in a film set centuries ago.
The only positive aspect of Holmes & Watson is the chemistry between Ferrell and Reilly, and the inclusion of comic greats such as Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. To see Ralph Fiennes’ name in the credits at the beginning was briefly exciting but, perhaps unsurprisingly, much like Coogan and Brydon, he is barely in the film. Nearly the entirety of the movie features Ferrell and Reilly acting like morons, and while this was obviously the intention, the pursuit to create comical versions of Watson and Holmes is embarrassing.
All this makes for a predictable film that tries hard to be funny but fails miserably.